Alexander Nix, founder and CEO of the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica, has backed out from a panel slated to run Thursday at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity following protest from various privacy activists and industry leaders.
In a statement, festival organizers said they accepted Nix’s “decision to withdraw.”
Nix was to have been interviewed by Financial Times editor Gillian Tett. Had it gone through, it would have been Nix’s first speaking appearance following the scandal that brought consumer privacy concerns to the fore for both consumers and government officials, festival organizers said.
Nix’s panel would have discussed “personal data and political agendas following claims of the company illicitly mining Facebook data,” according to a description posted on Cannes official website. “[Cambridge’s] impacts were felt around the world and the duo will review the surrounding reporting and its implications for the industry as a whole going forward.”
Both Nix and the festival came under pressure after Guardian reporter Carole Cadwalladr, who was among several writers who broke the initial Cambridge Analytica story, began protesting on Twitter, saying it wasn’t right that Nix would be getting a platform to speak.
Cadwalladr posted on Twitter that she intended to disrupt the panel with a “guerrilla screening” of the new Netflix documentary “The Great Hack,” which she had a role in developing. She added that she would also speak with Cambridge Analytica whistle blower Jamie Bartlett for “an alternative view on data and advertising.”
It's not unprecedented that a controversial conference speaker would bow out under pressure from critics. Last year The New Yorker canceled a panel at its New Yorker Festival with former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon after celebrities such as Judd Apatow, Jim Carrey and others said they would not participate in the festival if the Bannon interview went through.